I’ve learned how things will work with the federal mediator today. Basically, he meets with one side, then the other side, and that should take all morning. No one expects him to referee any real negotiating until this afternoon at the earliest. This is really getting down to the wire. Here is the timetable if a strike is called. I’m told that the turnout was strong this morning for the WGA’s informational hand-outs to union truck drivers and any driver who enters five of the major lots. Many studio execs were confused by the sight of writers out in force, thinking that WGA picketing had already begun. Nope.
Basically, what this pre-strike period has boiled down to is a nasty personality battle between both sides. The producers want to villify WGA negotiating committee topper Dave Young because he doesn’t have an entertainment background and prior to joining the WGA in 2004 was in the garment and construction industries. “He’s never negotiated a big contract like this,” an AMPTP source claims. I also keep hearing over and over from the producers how Young is responsible for the current hardline position taken by the writers. Certainly, he has helped focus the WGA’s anger and resentment with tactics that have alarmed the studios and networks. On the other hand, Young has been the point person on ridiculous issues like the chairs so as to give the writers pause.
At the same time, the WGA loves to villify Nick Counter since he has been the beet-red face of the producers for the past 25 years overseeing some 400 labor contracts with writers, actors, film crews, musicians and scores of other professionals. But this time around, suddenly Counter is being second-guessed. I’m hearing there’s divisiveness inside the AMPTP camp because of “a blame game” going on focused on how the hell these negotiations went so wrong — first, with the “big concession” of the residuals rollback not impressing the writers, then with the WGA’s onerous “script validation program”, and now with the Teamsters’ support of WGA picket lines. In recent days, the AMPTP has stepped up its PR campaign and made Counter available to every media outlet, and certainly the trades and Los Angeles Times have shown themselves pleased to be spoon-fed by the producers’ camp even when there’s nothing new in any of the info being disseminated. I’m especially ashamed of my pal Patrick Goldstein’s column today trying to make it seem as if only the writers in Hollywood require straitjackets when the inmates are running the asylum.